Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Fire Station with Friends

In recent weeks I've tried to reconnect with some of the families from Jackson's first preschool. There are four moms that have kids the same age (4 years old and 2 years old), so I've tried to initiate playgroups and activities for us. Today we visited the fire station that is right beside the children's museum. This particular station seems to always have training taking place. Any time we're at the museum, we watch the firefighters training from the parking lot. Today we were able to watch them up close as they practiced knots and lifting the equipment. Fun fact: I didn't realize the ladder truck had two stabilizers on each side that are required to be used when the ladder is extended.

The firefighters asked the kids fire safety questions such as who to call in an emergency and what to do if your clothes catch on fire. The men gave their basic tour, revealing each compartment of the fire truck.

Surprisingly, none of my friends had toured a fire station. I've lost count on how many fire station tours I've been on, but it's always interesting and kids always ask new questions.

This was the first time I've seen the jaws of life turned on. In all this time, I'm not sure I even realized they were electric. Normally firefighters just point to it in the truck or gloss over it, but this man took it out and turned it on. Jackson later told Jesse, "We saw these really big scissors that can cut a car!"

The standard part of the tour is for a firefighter to dress up in his gear. The point is to show the kids that he's just a normal guy wearing special clothes, and you should never be afraid of a firefighter. This heartwarming speech offers zero comfort for Amelia, as she cries every time she sees a firefighter in full gear.

At least Jackson wasn't afraid. He gave the man a high five.

Amelia still wasn't recovered in our group picture.

The firefighters let the kids sit in the truck and they turned on the lights. James and Jackson both went inside. I wasn't able to take pictures since I was still trying to soothe Amelia. Maddie didn't want to go in the truck.

Another highlight to this particular station is the fire pole. One of the men demonstrated for us. (He wasn't quite as seductive as the last man was from a few months ago!)

The kids aren't allowed to slide down the pole, but that didn't stop them from trying to climb it.

After the tour we spent another hour at a nearby park. This is the first time I was at a park with a bunch of moms of two year olds. They were more relaxed than I was in regards to walking all over the playground, though they also only had one 2-year-old to keep up with. Regardless, I felt like I should trust the trio a bit more than I currently do. Here are some of the other toddlers in our group.

In my other circle of friends, I became friends with the moms first and we encouraged the friendships among our kids. This particular group at the fire station is the exact opposite. Our kids get along great and have played together every week for years. I greatly respect the moms in this group, but I don't foresee myself hanging out with them outside of play dates.

I've volunteered as the unofficial event coordinator, so I'm planning to call and schedule another tour of the regional airport. That was one of the more unique trips last year, and the trio will get more out of it now that they're older. I'm curious to see how our friendships (moms, preschoolers, and toddlers) develop over this next year and what experiences we can provide for our kids.

Sea Life Aquarium

Since sickness prevented me from being able to take the kids on any adventures last week, I wanted to double up on our weekly "field trip". Yesterday I took advantage of the local aquarium's Toddler Tuesday program. Children under three get in free every day. On Tuesdays, children ages 3-12 get in free with the purchase on one paying adult. I went back and forth on whether or not I should just take the trio or all four. My only hesitation in taking everyone was knowing what a long day it would make for the trio without a nap. Since Jackson would only be free on Tuesdays, I chose to wait and take everyone after school pick up.

It was almost two o'clock by the time we arrived at the aquarium. (The trio nap around 2.) I changed the trio's diapers in the van, then walked through the parking lot. I haven't been using the stroller much anymore, but since it was so close to naptime, I used a double stroller. I did not bring the Ergo, which I would later regret!

The daily feeding time is at 2 pm, so we rushed through the first exhibits so we could watch the employees feed the sharks, eels, and sting rays. The kids were enamored by the sea creatures.

James was especially interested in the feeding.

Amelia could not contain her excitement and was just bursting with energy. It was like she was tapdancing in place. Eventually, she began to wander off, so we followed her lead. Everyone took turns at the touch tank. James, our water boy, peeled a starfish off the glass and made enormous waves in the tank. 

I've grown to appreciate the aquarium more as the kids have matured. It is really well designed and has so many secret areas where kids can get a unique view of the sea life. Jackson enjoyed standing under this tank, watching the fish swim around his head.

The most intriguing part of our day was watching the octopus eat. Apparently an octopus likes to hunt it's prey, so the staff  hide the food in puzzles, jars, and other contraptions for the octopus to eat. The octopus has the intelligence and curiosity of a toddler and is a very smart animal.  A staff member dropped a Mr. Potato Head full of food into the aquarium. Sure enough, Mr. Potato Head's ears and hands started drifting down to the bottom of the tank as the octopus retrieved it's dinner.

Jackson befriended the exceptionally helpful staff member. The two sat together on the floor and watched the octopus at work. I tried to keep the trio engaged as long as I could for Jackson's sake, but we had to move on sooner than I would have liked.

This is when things started to go downhill. Jackson was in a sour mood because I made him leave the octopus. I was enthusiastic and trying to get him excited about the next room. He looked with disgust and said, "It's just a giant crab."

We then walked through the very cool tunnel of fish. The sheer awesomeness of this display lifted Jackson's mood. I held the trio up so they could see the fish surrounding them in every direction.

Unfortunately it was at this time that I realized Amelia had completely soaked through her diaper. A few of our cloth diapers have begun leaking lately. We've more than gotten our money worth out of them, but I still need the diapers to last a few more months. Since I had just changed all three in the van, I didn't bring any diapers or change of clothes with me. The poor girl was drenched, so I buckled her in the stroller and sped through the final exhibits.

Amelia was furious that she couldn't get out of the stroller. Maddie and James were fighting over who could sit in the other seat vs who would walk. It was 3 pm and everyone was exhausted. As previously mentioned, the last few minutes would have been much easier had I brought the Ergo. The double umbrella is tough to steer with one hand while carrying another child.

Thankfully we were near the end of the aquarium. We stopped briefly to admire the jelly fish. This exhibit is visually stimulating because you can adjust the lighting by turning the dial any shade of the rainbow. Since jellyfish are translucent, they appear whatever color you select. 

The self tour ends at the play area and gift shop. I let Jackson climb to the top once before forcing him to leave.

I pushed the stroller up against a table so Maddie and Amelia could color. Maddie left sobbing because I wouldn't let her take the bowls full of crayons with her.

After all was said and done, I'm still happy that we went. I feel really bad about not bringing the diaper bag or Ergo with me, but I'm confident that the kids enjoyed the exhibits and had a fun experience.  If I had gone earlier in the day, we would have missed out on all of the feedings and Jackson would not have been with us. Jack's still talking about the octopus eating Mr. Potato Head and the trio get excited every time they see pictures of fish. That proves that it was a meaningful experience where they're able to make associations to what they saw at the aquarium. I consider that a success!

Toddler Storytime

I try to think of something special for the trio to do everyday after we drop Jackson off at school. It's been chilly and overcast the past few days, so I tried to think of indoor activities. Before I had time to overthink it, I found myself sitting in the library parking lot.

Even though I read to the kids throughout the day, I rarely take them to the library. Some of my most unmanageable moments with the kids have been at the library. One day in particular resulted in significant hair loss with me carrying an insane tantrum-throwing Jackson sideways, wearing newborn Maddie, and pushing James and Amelia with one hand while strangers took pictures of the whole debacle. It took me nearly a year to return for library storytime again. That experience ended with James banging on filing cabinets, Amelia pulling out the wall outlet covers, and Maddie climbing on top of the computer table. Books were ripped off the shelves. Clearly, there's a lot of reasons why taking four young kids to the library causes me anxiety. 

Still, it had been a year, so we were due for our annual library visit. The library doesn't open until 10 a.m. which meant we had 15 minutes to kill. The trio happily occupied their time playing in the van. I don't often let them play in the van, ever since they left the lights on overnight without me realizing it.

Our local branch has an adequate children's section. Amelia and Maddie, my book lovers, joyfully hoarded as many board books as they could.

The girls and I sat on the couch together and read dozens of books. They especially enjoy the touch-and-feel books, which are readily available on the shelves.

James, on the other hand, did not sit still for a single book reading. He preferred to play with puzzles, magnetic letters, and toys.

I wasn't even sure what age the storytime was geared for, but I knew we would attempt it regardless. It ended up being for preschoolers, though there were plenty of younger siblings in attendance. Much to my surprise, all three toddlers sat on my lap during the opening song and initial stories.

This storytime was more interactive than I anticipated. The theme was percussion instruments. There was a guest librarian from another branch helping. Each kid was allowed to make paper plate shakers. Maddie took her coloring job extremely seriously!

James was so overwhelmed by the crowd and became attached to my body. (He's sitting in my lap in the picture below.)

After we folded our plates, filled them with rice, and stapled them shut, we used our shakers during the songs. Storytime ended with an intense game of limbo. The girls participated while I held a crying James.

I'm not sure I want to include storytime in our regular routine, but I'm proud of how well the kids behaved. Other than James being over stimulated, we had a pleasant experience. The library did not defeat us this time!

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Park, Pirate, PaPa, & Panties

Isn't alliteration so satisfying?! 

Saturday morning the kids and I met up with a half dozen of my former colleagues and their kids for a park playdate. It was nice to get quick updates on one another and see the many families together. Unfortunately, I'm only capable of distracted adult conversation at large parks, since I spend more time following the kids' leads. Jackson made it a little easier for me by being such a helpful big brother. He gravitated towards Maddie yesterday, so they were inseparable.

James kept yelling at me to go on the "choo choo".

Once inside, James and Amelia climbed to the window. Maddie and Jackson continued to be adorable together.

All of the kids were expressing interest in the obstacle course, so we migrated and found a shady spot. The obstacle course is much more toddler friendly than the playground, so I didn't have to chase after the trio. Once upon a time Jackson used to attend playdates with these boys when they were babies and young toddlers. Oh, how much has changed in a few years, for all of our families.

Several of my friends went out for lunch afterwards, but we had other plans. I was browsing through social media on my phone right before we left the house for the park. I just so happened to see the "Dress Like a Pirate Day" picture from last year at Krispy Kreme. I checked the website to confirm it was Pirate Day. Jesse loaded the kids in the van for me while I ran upstairs, sifted through Jackson's dress up bin, and grabbed the exact same ensemble he wore last year.

The closest Krispy Kreme to us is over 30 minutes away, but it was only a few minutes away from the park. Much to my surprise, there was no line when we arrived. It was as if our free dozen doughnuts were meant to be! Jackson was so excited to dress up and eat his "hot now" doughnut. James, Amelia, and Maddie were exhausted, but they enjoyed their half doughnuts before falling asleep on the drive home.

Jesse had lunch waiting for us when we finally returned home. All six of us ended up taking a nap before MiMi and PaPa arrived with dinner. Jesse's dad had a whole evening of beautification planned. He brought everything necessary to give the kids pretend hair cuts and make-up. All four eagerly took turns in PaPa's lap.

Jesse's mom brought cereal, toys, and underwear. This is what the girls did with their panties. Clearly potty training is not in our immediate future!

After spending most of the week sick and stuck at home, it was a very busy, highly entertaining Saturday!

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Food Addicts in Recovery Anonymous

Since becoming a stay at home mom, I have had more trouble than ever maintaining any kind of healthy weight. As a teacher, there are only certain opportunities throughout the day to eat. In general, the only food available for a teacher is the food you bring to work. At home, food is accessible 24/7. When out running errands, there's unlimited access to drive-thrus and random food stashed in the van. The idea that I've lost control over eating, particularly binge eating, is something I've started to come to terms with recently.

I'm no stranger to diets. In the past decade I have tried:
  • Weight Watchers: I had success with the program multiple times, but I would manipulate the points. I would eat a can of green beans, bag of fat free popcorn, and a brownie for dinner. The last meeting I ever went to was Monday, November 5, 2007--at the same exact time my mother died. I've never returned to WW. Instead, I began eating whole pies.
  • Nutrisystem: This was a Today's Special Value on QVC one day. The food was so high in sodium and wasn't satisfying.
  • L. A. Weight Loss: I lost hundreds of dollars, but no weight, because they required 90 day plans be paid upfront. I went to a scheduled weigh in one day, only to find a note on the door saying they went bankrupt! They never refunded my money!
  • SparkPeople: I manually typed in every calorie/fat/carb/protein I ever put in my mouth for many months. Of course I was successful, but I also became obsessed with counting calories.
  • Juice Fast: NOT successful!
  • Wheat Belly: After giving up grains and sugars for four months last year, I felt great, but eventually returned to unhealthy dessert binges.
  • Whole 30: This was the most restrictive and least successful diet change I've ever attempted. I couldn't even make it the whole 30 days.
Like most people, with each diet, I loose weight, only to gain back even more weight. My weight has fluctuated 92 lbs over the last decade. 92 damn pounds. Last month I was at my heaviest weight I've ever been (even more than the day I delivered the trio!) and I felt so defeated. I was running 5 miles and just felt plain grossly gigantic. I was obsessively researching diets, supplements, food plans, etc. I read science based articles as well as articles from less reputable sources. Eventually, I googled my way to FA (Food Addicts in Recovery Anonymous). It was on a Thursday afternoon when I browsed through the website. There was a meeting listed that evening at a church just a few minutes away from my house. After dinner, off I went.

Despite being a newcomer amidst a very small group of strangers, the FA meeting felt like home. Everything I heard resonated with me. We read testimonies from food addicts around the world who shared their struggles. People who had been abstinent (from flour and sugar) for 90 days or more were invited to share their own reactions to the readings. Everything sounded familiar and right. The individuals would eat well and go on some diet for a few days/weeks/months, only to find themselves ending an entire bag of chips or whole pan of cookies in one setting. During the 10-minute break, I spoke with a few women who briefed me in the program and shared how it had changed them. Over the course of the next two weeks, I immersed myself in FA and started implementing their many requirements. To be fully committed, you're expected to:

  • Attend 3 meetings a week, one of which should be an AWOL meeting
  • Get a sponsor, aka, someone who has been abstinent from flour and sugar for at least 6 months
  • Call your sponsor every single day (weekends, vacations, etc) at the specified time for 15 minutes
  • Call three other FA members throughout the day, every single day (They distribute phone lists with the first name and number of dozens of FA members so you should call different people.)
  • Strictly adhere to the food plan your sponsor gives you, which is three meals a day and nothing in between.
  • Precisely weigh and measure all food.
  • Record your daily food plan in a journal and recite it to your sponsor every morning
  • Read a page from the 24 Hours a Day book every morning and the AA Big Blue Book every evening.
  • Meditate with your "Higher Power" for 30 minutes a day

I attended meetings and found a sponsor. She gave me the following food plan:

Breakfast (eaten between 6-8 AM)
Grain: 1 dry oz of plain oatmeal or oatbran
Dairy: choose from 8 oz plain, nonfat yogurt, 2 eggs, 2 oz cheese, 4 oz cottage cheese
Fruit: 1 whole fruit or 6 oz of berries/melon

Lunch (eaten between 12-1:30 pm)
Protein: 4 oz cooked chicken, beef, pork, or fish
Cooked vegetable: 6 oz
Fruit: 1 whole fruit or 6 oz berries/melon

Dinner (eaten between 5-7)
Protein: 4 oz cooked chicken, beef, pork, or fish
Cooked vegetable: 6 oz
Raw vegetable: 8 oz salad
Fat: 2 tablespoons of olive oil, butter, sugar free dressing

Drinks: water, decaffeinated herbal teas, decaf black coffee (never alcohol or artificial sweeteners)

I bought a food scale. I began weighing and portioning my foods. I called my sponsor at 5:45 a.m. every morning. (I am NOT a morning person and have no other reason in the world to be awake at 5:45 a.m.) I adhered to the plan. Then I quit. I nearly lost my mind at the irrational rules my sponsor insisted I follow. Every morning when I told her my food plan, she'd have to stop and correct me because "we don't do that". Some examples of the insane guidelines include:
  • Even though you can have fruit and you can have yogurt, you can't make a smoothie. In FA, "we don't doctor things up". 
  • Six ounces of a fruit or vegetable should be a single produce. My six ounces of stir-fry veggies was frowned upon. I was not allowed to have 3 oz of strawberries with my oatmeal and 3 oz of pineapple with my yogurt. I was supposed to have 6 oz of broccoli or 6 oz of strawberries.
  • You cannot add the meat to your salad. I planned to eat taco salad one evening, but was told I had to keep my meat in a separate bowl. The point is to remove emotional associations from meals. If taco salad is your favorite, too bad. You're eating a protein, cooked veggie, and salad every night for the rest of your life.
  • You cannot mix and match things. You either eat 2 eggs or 2 oz of cheese, not 1 egg and 1 oz of cheese.
  • All food must be separate. No chili, stew, or any other marrying of approved ingredients is allowed.
  • Some fruits were allowed, but others weren't. I still don't know why. I could eat strawberries or blueberries, but not grapes or cherries. I could eat an apple but not a banana, an orange but not a pomegranate. 
  • You can't add lemon to your water because that's a fruit.
  • At meetings, you can never name specific foods. It's one of the first things that tell you at every meeting.
  • This program is NOT about eating when you're hungry. In fact, at every single meeting I attended, at least one person mentioned how they used to have such a hard time finishing their meals in the beginning. An 8 oz salad is a LOT of salad. I was never able to finish any of my meals (granted, half of the time I was also recovering from food poisoning). When I told my sponsor I couldn't eat that much, she said "The worst thing that will happen to you is you will throw up." On the flip side, I told my sponsor about training for the half marathon and going for long runs every Saturday. She said there were no exceptions to "3 meals a day and nothing in between". She texted, "I won't guarantee you won't be hungry, but you won't die or starve. Drink plenty of water. Go early so you can eat by 8. (I am absolutely not running by myself for 2 hours in the dark on an empty stomach.)
  • AWOL is an intense 18 month program that meets weekly and works through the 12 steps program. When you join AWOL, you aren't allowed to be on antidepressants. I'm not on any medications at all, but I could not wrap my head around that one.
  • The food plan you commit to each morning should be followed 100%. If for some reason I changed my food plan during the day (i.e. I decided to have chicken instead of pork or an apple instead of an orange) I was expected to call my sponsor immediately and notify her of the change. 
  • A lot of the literature is from AA, which means I would randomly read sentences like "We alcoholics are emotional people and we have gone to excess in almost everything we have done." I'm sure I'd get used to the language eventually, but it always caught me off guard.
  • Since I have a lot of weight to lose, I was on a stricter food plan. That meant no corn, peas, legumes, or potatoes. I was okay with being abstinent from flour and sugar, but my list of foods to avoid became longer each day.
The things I loved about FA were:

  • the fellowship and sense of community at the meetings
  • the incorporation of a Higher Power (They don't specify God, but most people are Christian.)
  • The entire program is free. There are no dues, though most people donate a dollar or two at each meeting.
  • There are multiple meetings available 7 days a week where I live, within a 40 minute radius.
  • Most of the people at the meetings had been abstinent from flour and sugar for several years. They looked very healthy.
  • The 12 steps requires you to examine your character defects and try to understand what your addiction is masking.
  • The goal of the food plan is to make eating manageable, take the power away from food, and feel "neutral" about food. You should like and enjoy what you eat, but you should neither look forward to a meal nor dread it. You shouldn't have positive or negative associations with a particular food. The sole purpose of food is to provide nutrients for your body, nothing more. Food is not a reward.
I'm currently in a bit of limbo. I want to incorporate some aspects of FA, but it's an all or nothing program. I won't follow the rules of not mixing fruit and yogurt or having a variety of vegetables. And I don't think rice or potatoes are foods to eliminate completely. I also won't commit to calling someone at 5:45 a.m. on a Sunday morning or running in the dark on an empty stomach. I'm uncomfortable with the idea of eating because someone told me to eat, not because I'm hungry. Still, I absolutely love so many components of the program. I'm not strictly adhering to my food plan at every meal, but I've been eating significantly more produce and refraining from flour or sugar (with the exception of teriyaki sauce). I truly do think flour and sugar have negative effects on my body. 

So, that's where I stand. I may continue going to the Thursday meetings, simply because I find them so relatable and inspiring. I will use my food plan as a guide, but allow room for error. I actually enjoy weighing the foods, as this is one thing I've never done before. Surprisingly, it gives me the exact same peace of mind as offering pumped milk rather than breastfeeding. Just like feeding the babies, I know exactly how much food I'm eating and I know it should be enough to hold me over until the next meal. It makes sense to me. Weighing my food and eating it in one sitting forces me to stop mindless grazing all day and opening the pantry or refrigerator door 20 times.

On the FA website, there's a list of 20 questions to answer to determine if you're a food addict. If you answer yes to any of them, you could be a food addict. I answered yes to 16 of them. Unfortunately, I know I have tendencies to binge eat on sweets. I think I'll always have cravings for sweet foods and associate desserts with comfort, but I'm going to try and consciously refrain. I may even try to work through some of the 12 steps and see what comes to surface.

If you've made it through this whole long post of rambling, thank you. There's no tidy conclusion, because my journey's not over.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Holy Dehydration

This week has been a downward spiral into the pits of hell. On Sunday evening I went to bed early with aches, chills, and nausea. I kept telling Jesse, "I don't feel well. I don't fell well. Something's not right." 

Sure enough, the next 30 hours were spent getting violently ill every 30-45 minutes. Literally, every 30-45 minutes. For 30 hours. My stomach just kept convulsing and I couldn't eat or drink anything. It was so bad that I told Jesse I couldn't watch the kids. He took the day off Tuesday.

By late Tuesday afternoon, I found myself completely disoriented and weak. Every time I tried to sit up, I became instantly dizzy. After speaking to the triage nurse, I made the first available appointment to come in to the office. 

Thankfully my blood pressure and temperature were fine, but my resting heart rate was 120 bpm and my lips were cracked. The nurses spent the next two hours trying to administer IV fluids. Because I was so dehydrated, they couldn't get any veins. Multiple nurses and doctors came in to try and insert the IV in my arms and hands. The two times they were able to find a vein, the veins blew. I happen to be terrified of needles, so it's a good thing I was in and out of consciousness during these attempts.

I was eventually sent home with directions to sip a liter of Pedialyte over the next two hours, then proceed to the ER if my symptoms didn't improve. The doctor warned me that I would need at least three liters to rehydrate, but not to drink too quickly.

Over 24 hours later, I've managed to drink 1.5 liters and eat a few bites of food. My stomach is finally settling but my energy level is far from normal. Now we just pray that I'm the only victim in the family from whatever hell invaded my body.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

The Last First Birthday

We spent the afternoon celebrating our sweet nephew's first birthday. 

The party was guaranteed to be a blast for the kids, for no other reason than being able to interact with their favorite people. We fixed plates of food for all four kids and sat them down at a table together. It didn't take long for James, Amelia, and Maddie to climb down, carry their plate over to MiMi and PaPa's table, and crawl up on their laps.

I jokingly called MiMi the crazy balloon lady. She was having as much as the kids did, thanks to the helium tank.

The theme of the party was "Little Man" with lots of silly mustaches. My sister-in-law ordered these adorable cutouts from Etsy. They provided plenty of smiles and cute photo ops among the party guests. 

Nailed it!
The least cooperative husband ever

My favorite first birthday tradition is the cake smash. Davis isn't a fan of solid foods, but he made just the right amount of mess with the icing. Such a cutie!

It was impossible to keep the trio out of the way while the birthday boy opened his presents. The toddlers were so excited to see the many toys.

It was a fun party with the perfect amount of space, food, and decor. It was a little bittersweet thinking that this is most likely the last "first birthday" our family will ever celebrate. While it is still possible for my sister-in-law and I to have children, that is definitely not in the plans.  When I looked around the room, it seemed odd to think, "This is it. Here's our completed family." Of course it will be fun to watch how the cousins play together as they age.

I guess that's all the more reason to be thankful that Davis' first birthday party was such a hit. Happy birthday, little man. We look forward to watching you grow!